The UK media gathering for Mini at Plant Oxford was the first occasion the very latest Mini Hatch, Convertible and Clubman, all built at Oxford, lined up alongside three future new models, the Countryman SUV four door, the two seater Coupe due in 2011 and the two seater soft top Roadster due in 2012.
Only the Countryman range will not be built at Plant Oxford instead this will be built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria as they already build the BMW X3 SUV . This is now the Mini six-pack or is it seven-pack.
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For those of you who have not noticed, I have omitted the Mini-E. The zero emission electric Mini is a test bed model, being used in field-trials around the world to test under all conditions the electric power system. Phase two of the trials with 40 Mini-Es will soon begin in the UK.
This model is not for production, but the technology is; for a city car, not Mini or BMW branded, for release in 2013. I have driven it and it works - very well with all the acceleration and handling you expect from a BMW or Mini, just with a lesser driving range, perhaps 100 miles between charge-ups and a reported 117mph top speed has been achieved.
But back to the 'maxi' Mini media event.
New 1.6-litre petrol engines
A new and improved version of the Mini petrol engine is now fitted to all First, One, Cooper and Cooper S models in the Hatch, Convertible and Clubman ranges.
The Mini First and One models will now be fitted with a 1.6-litre engine, replacing the former 1.4 unit, and VALVETRONIC valve operation that delivers more torque and better fuel consumption. All Mini petrol-engined models now conform to European EU5 emissions standards.
VALVETRONIC fully variable valve timing delivers a five per cent improvement in fuel consumption while an on-demand, map-controlled oil pump achieves a further 2.5 per cent saving. An improved, low friction engine vacuum pump accounts for another one per cent and a map-regulated water pump working on a pulsed cycle (rather than simply on or off) saves another 1.2 per cent.
The entry level MINI First now has a new version of the 1.6-litre four cylinder engine that produces 75hp, the same as its predecessor. The extra capacity has been designed to produce more torque which is higher by almost 17 per cent at 140 Nm.
As a result fuel consumption in the EU cycle is 52.3mpg and CO2 emissions are only 127g/km. Top speed of Mini First is 109mph while the 0-62mph acceleration takes 13.2 seconds.
Going up the range the new engine enables Mini One to increase both power (by three per cent to 98hp) and torque by nine per cent to 153Nm at 3,000 rpm. This new technology also deliver consumption of 52.3mpg on the combined cycle while emissions fall to 127g/km. Top speed rises to 116mph and zero to 62mph acceleration takes 10.5 seconds.
The Mini One Clubman benefits from the same powertrain improvements and offers 0-62mph in 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 115mph. EU cycle fuel consumption falls to 51.4mpg and emissions to 129g/km.
At the heart of the Mini range the largest-selling model, the MINI Cooper, also benefits from the new engine enhancements. A power hike to 122hp (+3hp) and peak torque of 160Nm at 4,250 rpm help the Hatch to 62mph in 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 127mph. Sharing all the new engine features- except the turbocharger of the Cooper S, the Cooper achieves 52.3 mpg and emits 127g/km of CO2.
The iconic Cooper S model also gets more 'poke with less smoke'. It is equipped for the first time with a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct petrol injection and fully variable valve control. The variable valve control is based on BMW's familiar VALVETRONIC system that adjusts valve lift and opening times in direct relationship to the driver's command on the throttle pedal.
Mini claim the result is the most efficient hot hatch in its class: the 1.6 litre unit produces 9hp more power at 184hp while peak torque is 240Nm, delivered from as low as 1,600rpm all the way through to 5,000rpm. This flexibility is enhanced by an Overboost function that delivers 260Nm for short periods when it is most needed when overtaking.
The Cooper S Hatch sprints from 0 to 62 mph in 7.0 seconds on its way to a top speed of 142 mph. But it's not just about 'go' it delivers improved fuel consumption of 48.7 mpg increased by 3.1 mpg, while CO2 emissions are now 13g/km lower at 136g/km.
All three models are equipped as standard with a six speed manual gearbox or, optionally, a six speed automatic gearbox with shift paddles on the steering wheel. Manual Cooper S models will be fitted with a new self-adjusting clutch with carbon coated linings that reduces service costs and maintains consistent pedal feel but also improves gear synchronisation.
An additional Mini Hatch has been added to the range, the Mini One MINIMALIST with the new 1.6-litre petrol engine but with brake energy regeneration, auto Start Stop function, optimum gear change display, low resistance tyres and the lowest CO2 emissions of any petrol engine Mini at 119g/km. This means a First Year VED rate of £0 and £30 a year from the second year onwards.
This model only incurs 10 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax so the fleet and company car market sector will be its main customers. On test fuel economy was 42.9mpg. The price is £330 more than the cheapest Mini One Hatch at £12,950.
The new Mini One Convertible
Perhaps the most significant additional new model ready for the road now is the Mini One Convertible. Since its launch in 2009 the there has been strong demand and in response to that a lower priced variant is now heading for the UK roads.
So far it has only been possible to buy a Cooper, Cooper S or John Cooper Works Convertible, so the introduction of a One Convertible provides a much lower entry point for fresh air fans. At an attractive £14,985, but in true Mini style there is range of extra cost option packs, this new model is expected to become the best selling Mini Convertible.
The Mini One Convertible shares the new 1.6 litre VALVETRONIC engine of its Hatch and Clubman cousins, and produces the same 98hp and 153Nm of torque. It accelerates from 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds with a top speed of 112mph. Despite this it brings fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions to a new level in the convertible market, recording 49.6mpg in the combined with 133g/km of CO2 emissions.
The open top four seater features a fabric roof that opens and closes electro-hydraulically at the touch of a button at speeds up to 20 mph. Designed as a Convertible from the outset, the Mini Convertible offers a torsionally-stiff body that maintains the Mini go-kart feeling. However deep potholes will send shudders through the body especially if it is fitted with the optional run-flat tyres so ignore those.
Despite its lower price the Mini One Convertible offers relatively high standard equipment including air-conditioning and is equipped with all the sophisticated active safety features of the Cooper and Cooper S including electro-mechanical steering, stability control, four airbags and the rear rollover bar behind the rear seats that pops up automatically in the event of a rollover incident.
The more affordable new Mini One Convertible will be a valuable tool in the British made brand's armoury especially as new car purchase prices are getting more and more competitive, motoring costs are getting higher with increasing fuel prices, higher road tax charges and Benefit-in-Kind company car taxation all affecting our motoring budgets.
Summer's here, happy topless motoring.
Mini One Convertible MILESTONES
Engine/transmission: new 1.6-litre, four cylinder, VALVETRONIC, petrol, 98hp, 153Nm of torque, 6-speed manual.
Performance: 112mph, 0-62mph 11.3 seconds, 49.6mpg (36.9mpg actual), CO2 133g/km, VED £110.
Insurance group: 14E.
For: Attractive entry level iconic Mini soft-top motoring, latest new 1.6 petrol engine, relatively well equipped, high residual values.
Against: : Firm ride and optional run flat tyres make it worse, very limited rear seat legroom, roof down limits rear vision.